Jiu-jitsu for Your Mind

My teacher, Prof. Roberto, used to tell us that jiu-jitsu was one part techniques, one part your athleticism, and one part your mind. I’ve forgotten the percentages he used, but the point was that your mental capabilities were important. You need a sharp reasonable brain to allow for creative processing and for developing strategies and puzzle-solving algorithms in jiu-jitsu.

If you had to write a program for a machine to do jiu-jitsu, a recognize and response pathway for every possible scenario (especially taking into account everything I talked about in the last post) you’d spend your life just writing about a singular position. It’s a good thing we don’t have to do that. Our bodies and minds (for most of us) operate rather seamlessly (the mind-body/scholar-warrior dualism), all we need to do is consider and practice.

In writing about Jiu-jitsu you basically have two choices. You can write about technique or you can write about insight. For me the best technique books were accomplished long ago: Kudo’s Judo in Action or the earlier version Dynamic Judo are the best solid references I’ve ever seen. There is also quite a bit of detail in the text surrounding each of the illustration sets. and it’s this information that I still find revelation in.

So here’s a bit of thinky stuff. The idea is to cause argument in your head.

Jiu-jitsu is a conversation (or an argument in the Greek sense), not dictation. If you’re dictating you’re working out with an inanimate dummy. You have to anticipate and respond cleverly to the possible responses of an educated training partner. This is different from most martial arts’ “self-defense” training in which the response of the opponent is assumed to be limited and uneducated. A reason why I consider most self-defense training to be naive especially if it doesn’t include actual randori/free sparring from trained opponent/partners.

It is important to respect effort, emphasize effort and trust in effort. Desire is a great motivator, but it isn’t the same thing as actual sweaty work. Only the work produces any kind of results.

Rome eventually conquered Greece in ancient times, it turned out the training the Legions did was better than that of the Phalanx. Macaulay points out–probably stealing from Polybius–that the Legion was a far more flexible fighting unit. The short sword and pilium (sling) combination was more effective than the traditional spears, but it wasn’t just the combination of weaponry it was also the fact that Legions trained a wider variety of formations that could be executed rapidly. And while it’s true that Rome lost many battles of the course of history, the Legion definitely outlasted the Phalanx and is still studied in modern times. The point is sticking doggedly to a singular methodology is a kind of death. There is something powerful in having a single black-belt level technique, but your opportunities to employ it will likely be limited if the rest of your game is struggling to keep up.

Take this time to learn or teach chess. If you’ve never played the game you’re in for an addictive treat. If you do play the game get an online account with a chess club and start playing. Jiu-jitsu is as close to a physical chess game as can be imagined. The set of techniques possible are represented by the combinations of the pieces on the board. The scenarios that arise in conflict with a good opponent are exactly like the puzzles jiu-jitsu provides. Things are a little different from chess in that Jiu-jitsu is less limited and has more solutions than chess puzzles. While there are endless possible plays, there are really a finite number of good ones, sometimes there’s only a single good movie. Jiujitsu is only really metaphorically represented in chess, but once you learn chess you can’t stop thinking of it as an analogy for almost everything that includes a conflict.

Keep doing your exercises, and keep visualizing your techniques.

we’ll be back to work soon!

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